Dreaming of Ferrari's California
The instruction when I picked up the Ferrari California T was simple: I had to treat the Italian convertible as an everyday car and do everyday tasks in it.
Obviously the staff at the Auckland dealership that is home to the California T didn't realise how mundane my life is: home, work, supermarket, home. Repeat.
I tried to jazz it up during my 48 hours of "ownership" by adding a visit to my chiropractor. I know, I know -- I need to calm down, things nearly got out of hand.
But that trip to have an adjustment actually proved that no matter how normal and everyday you try, there is nothing ordinary about owning (or temporarily owning) a Ferrari.
Having parked the blue California T roadside at the chiropractor's clinic, I was pointing out the Ferrari to the staff when a group of 60-something Spanish men walked past and spotted the car.
They stopped, did a double take, admired it, took selfies, admired it some more and then when they spotted me watching them, gestured for me to come out and take them for a drive. When I declined they then mimed picking up the 2 + 2 seater and carrying it away.
Ah, the international language of appreciation of a beautiful sports car.
First launched in 1957, the California is very much a part of the Prancing Horse stable, but the latest model has certainly evolved since that first convertible.
This new version is more than just a facelift of the California. It has retained the same size and hard retractable roof as the previous model but has improved traction control and advanced dampers and suspension.
It also gains a new 3.9-litre, V8 twin-turbocharged engine -- with the "turbo" giving the addition of the T to the California badge.
Producing 412kW of power and 755Nm of torque, the California T weighs 1729kg with a distribution of 47 per cent at the front and 53 per cent at the rear.
That V8 engine hits 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds, but the new turbo technology improves fuel efficiency (though if you own a California T you're not budgeting at the petrol pump) plus dropping CO2 emissions by 20 per cent -- an important factor for manufacturers with tougher European regulations.
Compared with other vehicles in the Ferrari line-up, including the 458 and 458 Spider, the California T is considered an "everyday" car by the Italian manufacturer with 50 per cent more daily use and 30 per cent higher annual mileage than other Ferraris.
The California T is also the pick for passengers with 65 per cent of trips with driver plus one on board.
Sure it has two seats in the back, both with ISOFIX, but it's suited for tots, primary school kids or more likely as stowage for handbags, briefcases and those "everyday" supermarket excursions.
The California T also has the bonus of the rear two seats folding down via levers in the boot, making room for a set of golf clubs or skis.
Priced from $413,888, my car was fully optioned and had a price tag of $500,359.
Research shows the "typical" California T owner is between 35 and 55, is a business owner, their partner has a say in the purchase of the car, with competitors including the Mercedes-Benz SL, Porsche's 911, plus the Bentley and Maserati GTs.
A consideration in purchase of the Ferrari California T has to be California its more contemporary styling. Its exterior look is a hybrid of design elements with a sculptured bonnet, long grill, narrow vertical headlights plus a pointed front spoiler. The rear has an almost American muscle car look due to the large wheel haunches and round rear lights.
The cabin moves back to its Italian roots with a refined dash and the addition of a boost monitor and clock combination that unfortunately you can't read in sunlight, plus a new infotainment screen.
But the steering wheel is the focal point with indicator buttons to the centre, lights and windscreen wiper buttons below that, then on to suspension and performance settings, where you can dial in either comfort or sport mode or turn off ESC to get some prancing from your Ferrari.
The downside to having the indicators on the steering wheel was it was hard to operate them when turning sharply, especially through roundabouts.
While you can opt for auto transmission, the most fun comes when you instead swap to manual and use the paddles, which are in a separate unit to the steering wheel and are the best I've used in a long time.
I have small hands so I get annoyed at premium car manufacturers who insist on having tiny paddles, and even more so with ones in the same unit as the steering wheel. I prefer a separate large unit so I know where it is, especially when cornering at speed.
Which I did when I decided to leave my mundane life and run away for a day. I headed north of Auckland via the winding roads of Waiwera, into Warkworth for a quick lunch then an exhilarating blat across the Kaipara Flats to Helensville.
With the roof off, I turned off the stereo and listened to the engine and exhaust work their magic.
Approaching the many one-way bridges I used the paddles to shift down -- and smiled as the exhaust notes barked back at me. Then it was foot down on the nearly empty roads and quickly shift up from second through to seventh gear with the transmission and torque synchronised.
As fun as the California T was, proving not only an everyday car but a solid grand tourer, when dropping it back at the dealership I said I found it hard to see the time due to the dial sitting in the middle of the dash. But the cheeky staff member joked, "you just check out the time by looking at your diamond-encrusted Rolex".
Yip, even my 20-year-old knockoff Cartier watch won't make it to the everyday Ferrari California T lifestyle.